Diego Melo photo portrait
PhD Student of Geography and Graduate Part-Time Instructor • Extractive Economies • Territorial Rights • Political Ecology • Latin America
Human Geography

Research Interests

I’m a political ecologist working at the intersection of the geographies of dispossession and environmental justice in northwestern Colombia. My dissertation research investigates the re-configuration of gold mining in the Chocó department and its effects on Black Communities and Indigenous Peoples living along the upper Atrato River basin. Drawing from Marxist, Feminist, and anti-racist theories and methodologies, I work to interrogate the operations of racial capitalism on and against body-territories in the Pacific Lowlands.

Current Research

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked for the Colombian Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Co-existence and Non-repetition. As a research analyst, I had the opportunity to interview victims of the armed conflict, local and regional community organizers, genocide survivors, and former FARC ex-combatants. The Commission’s work, a massive collective endeavor aimed to clarify, understand, and heal +60 years of war and dispossession is now available in Spanish. It holds important implications for scholars interested in the political ecology of war in Colombia. I hope to make much of this work relatable to human geographers’ interests in the US through my scholarly work.

More Info

I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Latin American studies from Macalester College, in Saint Paul, MN, and a master's degree in Law, with an emphasis on Human Rights and Democratization, from the Externado University of Colombia. In the past, I have worked with NGOs to oppose the environmental injustice inherent in large-scale extraction projects, such as large-scale coal and gold mining. I am also intellectually committed to bringing in feminist and queer theory into discussions about environmental justice. I speak Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

Recent Courses Taught

Spring 2022 GEOG 1962-581: Geographies of Global Change
Summer 2022 GEOG 1972-581: Environment-Society Geography
Fall 2022 GEOG 1962-581: Geographies of Global Change
Fall 2022 GEOG 1962-582: Geographies of Global Change

Honors and Awards

AAG Latin American Specialty Group, Best Student Paper 2020
Field Research Grant, Tinker Foundation 2019
Colciencias-Fulbright PhD Student Scholarship, Colombian Fulbright Commission 2017-2021

Recent Publications

Ospina, J.S., Torres, D.C., Melo, D.A., Espinosa, A., Malagón, S. (2022) Pacífico. Colombia Adentro. Relatos territoriales sobre el conflicto armado. Bogotá: Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición. https://www.comisiondelaverdad.co/colombia-adentro-1

Faculty advisor: Joe Bryan